The City Within the City
by LÉON KRIER
A + U, Tokyo, Special Issue, November 1977, pages 69-152. Reprinted in: Architectural Design, volume 54 (1984), Jul/Aug pages 70-105. Also in: Léon Krier: Houses, Palaces, Cities, Demetri Porphyrios, editor, Academy Publications, London, 1984. With added sections from “The Cities Within the City II”, Architectural Design, volume 49 (1979), Jan pages 18-32; and “The Reconstruction of the European City”, Architectural Design, volume 54 (1984), Nov/Dec pages 16-22.
A city can only be reconstructed in the form of urban quarters. A large or a small city can only be reorganized as a large or a small number of urban quarters; as a federation of autonomous quarters. Each quarter must have its own center, periphery and limit. Each quarter must be A CITY WITHIN A CITY. The quarter must integrate all daily functions of urban life (dwelling, working, leisure) within a territory dimensioned on the basis of the comfort of a walking person; not exceeding 35 hectares (80 acres) in surface and 15,000 inhabitants. Tiredness sets a natural limit to what a human being is prepared to walk daily and this limit has taught mankind all through history the size of rural or urban communities.
There seems, on the contrary, to be no natural limit to the size of a functional zone; the boredom which befalls man while driving a car has made him forget any sense of physical limit.
The form of the city and of its public spaces cannot be a matter of personal experiment. The city and its public spaces can only be built in the form of streets, squares, and quarters of familiar dimensions and character, based on the local tradition. Whether of grand metropolitan or intimate local quality, the streets and squares must present a permanent and familiar character. Their dimensions and proportions must be those of the best and most beautiful pre-industrial cities, obtained from and verified by a millennia-old culture.
After the crimes committed against the cities and landscapes of Europe over the last few decades in the name of progress and efficiency, the professions of architecture and engineering deserve nothing but the contempt of the population. The function of architecture is not, and never has been, to take one’s breath away: it exists to create a built environment which is habitable, agreeable, beautiful, elegant and solid.
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